“I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.” —Kemal Atatürk
President Recep Erdoğan’s dismantling of Turkey’s secularism continues, and this time it’s personal.
Several sources, including Turkish Minute and SolInternational report that the Turkish Education Ministry has removed a chapter on evolution from a 12th-grade textbook. The earlier chapter was called “The beginning of life and evolution,” but, beginning with the 2017/2018 school year, it’s been replaced by a chapter called titled “Living creatures and the environment.” I seriously doubt that this is just a change of title; all indications of what’s happening in Turkey suggests that this will be either a pro-creationist chapter or one that questions the truth of evolution. After all, this is all part of Erdoğan’s drive to make Turkey an Islamic theocracy, and the Qur’an (which is often read literally, and has a purely creationist description of human origins) has no truck with evolution. While the modern theory of evolution is taught in some Muslim countries, in many the topic is simply off limits.
SolInternational reports, in English that’s a bit fractured,
The debates around whether to exclude Evolution Theory and include Intelligent Design model has been escalating recently. Responding to a question on the exclusion of Evolution Theory from the curriculum, the Minister of National Education, İsmet Yılmaz said that the draft is open for feedbacks, and the Evolution Theory is not an exception. Yılmaz claimed that “whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical, all these are debatable.”
The AKP government [Erdoğan’s party] had long been attempting to transform the education system and curriculum in line with Islamic principles and credo. In 2012, weight of Religion courses had been increased from 2 to 6 hours a week. In 2013, the government had made a regulation, which let the Intelligent Design model to be included in the curriculum beside the Evolution Theory.
There are other changes as well:
– Information about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, is being reduced in the first grade.
. . . On January 5, pro-AKP teachers’ union Eğitim-Bir-Sen has suggested that courses related to Atatürk should be removed from school curriculums. The union’s statement came after the Education Ministry announced that it had concluded efforts at renovating the schedule.
You can read my appreciation of Atatürk here. As you can see from the quote at the top, he was secularist, a reformer, and an atheist whose legacy is being systematically dismantled by the new government. What we are seeing in Turkey, and which is verified by my friends there, is a metastasizing Islamization of the country. The elimination of evolution is one aspect of this, but of course that tactic, while removing an important aspect of knowledge from the Turkish curriculum, will do far less damage than the increasing repression of women, muting of freedom of speech, and jailing of opponents. Many of us who have spent time in Turkey love that country, and weep for what’s happening to it now. Going back to secularism seems an impossible task.
h/t: Stephen Muth